The Cardinals have been willing to spend on premium talent even in Free Agency

Let's look back since 2011.

  • After 2011, they offered Albert big money, but he signed in LAA. The Cards signed Carlos Beltran and re-upped Furcal. The 2012 season was tough. The Cardinals finished 2nd to the Reds, but the Cards had a better pythagorean record.
  • After 2012, the club didn't make any major signings. That 2012 team was good - 7 players at 2.9 fWAR or above, with 4 more between 2 and 2.9. In 2013, the club won the Central and went to the World Series.
  • After 2013, the club signed Jhonny Peralta, the 7th biggest FA contract that winter. In 2014, the club went to the NLCS after winning the Central.
  • After 2014, the Cards passed on chasing Max Scherzer (maybe you remember), but they did have to replace Oscar Taveras. So they traded for Jason Heyward. In 2015, the club won 100 games, but lost to a division rival in the opening round of the playoffs.
  • After 2015, the Cards made big FA offers. They offered big money to Heyward (he signed the 3rd biggest contact that year in Chicago saying they were the better long term bet). They offered big money to David Price, only to see Boston go over the top at the last second with the biggest contract that winter. The Cards then signed Mike Leake to the 10th biggest contract that year. The Cards missed the playoffs in 2016.
  • After 2016, the Cards were active in the FA market again. They signed the 3rd biggest FA, Dexter Fowler, and the 13th, Brett Cecil. 2017 did not go well, with Fowler and Cecil stumbling terribly in the first half. Tommy Pham broke out for 6 wins, but the team finished in 3rd.
  • After 2017, the Cards agreed to a trade for Giancarlo Stanton and his giant contract. Stanton rejected the trade, and the Cards moved for Marcel Ozuna. They also signed Luke Gregerson and Miles Mikolas. The top FA contracts went to Hosmer!, Darvish, JD Martinez, Lorenzo Cain, and Jake Arrieta. In 2018, Ozuna disappointed; Fowler fell apart; and the club missed the playoffs again.
  • After 2018, the Cardinals made another big move, trading for and extending Paul Goldschmidt. They also signed Andrew Miller to the 16th biggest FA contract. In 2019, the club got a breakout from Jack Flaherty, winning the Central and advancing to the NLCS.
  • After 2019, the Cards added little in FA or trades. They signed KK from Japan and Brad Miller from Philadelphia. In 2020, the pandemic messed everything up. Without fans, the Cards made the playoffs, but they lost in the first round.
  • After 2020, MLBs financials were a wreck. The Cards signed no FA and non-tendered Kolten Wong. They managed to trade for Nolan Arenado and his "underwater contract" though. In 2021, after a rough first half, the club rallied to win the wild card. Sadly, they lost to the Dodgers on a walk-off HR.
  • After 2021, the club signed Matz, Dickerson, McFarland, and Albert Pujols. Thanks to a mid season injection of pitching and MVP performances from Goldenado, the club won the Central, but lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Now the Cards are faced with lots of off seasons decisions. They stated they are raising payroll. They are looking for a catcher, a big bat, and pitching depth. Most of us want them to upgrade the rotation with an established TOR (formerly Ace).

There is dispute about the Cardinals willingness to spend on FAs or go after premium players. The Cards do stay away from 10 year deals, and they have made more trades in the last 5 years.

Still, the club has shown a willingness to chase big talents. They aren't always the ones we want, but they go for it more than we give them credit for.